The Importance of Sticking to Your Tools During Match Play

In tennis, just like in any skilled craft, each stroke you’ve developed is like a unique tool in a toolbox. Each player possesses a distinct set of these tools—various strokes, spins, and tactics—each honed for specific situations on the court.
It’s critical to recognize that, during match play, trying to alter these tools in the heat of the match play is akin to a carpenter attempting to turn a hammer into a saw mid-stroke. This usually leads to mistakes because each tool (or stroke) is designed for specific tasks and has been refined through practice to function optimally in those scenarios.
For example, consider your serve, a foundational tool in your kit. It’s a stroke used to start every point where you have control, and its effectiveness can set the tone for the entire rally.
During a match is not the time to tweak or change the mechanics of your serve. If midway through a game you find yourself dissatisfied with your serving performance, remember that this isn’t the time for fundamental changes. Instead, focus on implementing simple rituals that you’ve practiced, such as bouncing the ball a certain number of times, setting your stance, and visualizing the serve before execution. These rituals create consistency and focus, leveraging your current skills under pressure.
It’s completely natural to feel the urge to adjust when things aren’t going perfectly. However, more often than not, sticking with your well-practiced routines and using the tools you’ve developed will yield better results under match pressure.
If you truly feel that a change is necessary, the appropriate time for this is during the off-season, not during a match. Here, you can spend ample time making adjustments without the immediate pressure of competition. Remember, modifying any fundamental aspect of your stroke will take weeks or months to solidify.
During match play, trust in the tools you have, and try to use them to their fullest potential to get the best out of your game!